Fast Food Still Too High in Salt, Fat and Calories

Are you planning to reduce or eliminate fast food from your diet this year? You probably should. Despite the epidemic of obesity in the U.S., there’s been little change in portion sizes and meal formulation between 1996 and 2013. An analysis of calorie, sodium, saturated fat and trans fat content of popular menu items served […]

Red meat consumption may increase risk of diabetes

This one is for all of the carnivores out there: Eating even a half-serving more of  red meat over time is associated with an increased risk of type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in a follow-up of three studies of about 149,000 U.S. men and women, according to a report published Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine. While […]

Red meat consumption may increase risk of diabetes

This one is for all of the carnivores out there:

Roast beef cooked under high heat

Eating even a half-serving more of  red meat over time is associated with an increased risk of type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in a follow-up of three studies of about 149,000 U.S. men and women, according to a report published Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine.

While previous studies have related red meat consumption to greater risk of T2 diabetes, they only measured consumption at  baseline — a single point in time.  There has been limited follow up of longer-term eating behaviors, according to a press release from JAMA.

An Pan, Ph.D., of the National University of Singapore, and colleagues analyzed data from three Harvard group studies and followed up 26,357 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study; 48,709 women in the Nurses’ Health Study; and 74,077 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Diets were assessed using food frequency questionnaires.

During more than 1.9 million person-years of follow-up, researchers documented 7,540 incident cases of T2DM.

“Increasing red meat intake during a four-year interval was associated with an elevated risk of T2DM during the subsequent four years in each cohort,” according to the study.

The results indicate that compared with a group with no change in red meat intake, increasing red meat intake of more than 0.50 servings per day was associated with a 48 percent elevated risk in the subsequent four-year period. Reducing red meat consumption by more than 0.50 servings per day from baseline to the first four years of follow-up was associated with a 14 percent lower risk during the subsequent entire follow-up.

The authors noted the study is observational so causality cannot be inferred.

“Our results confirm the robustness of the association between red meat and T2DM and add further evidence that limiting red meat consumption over time confers benefits for T2DM prevention,” the authors concluded.

Something to consider before ordering your next Big Mac.


Eating Right to Fight Cancer

It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat that keeps you healthy, say researchers at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Using the right combination of unrefined carbs and protein (100-200 calories) and snacking every few hours, keeps blood sugar levels steadier, and your body healthier.  “Eating a healthy meal or snack every few hours refuels your body and puts you in better shape to fight off diseases like cancer,” Mary Ellen Herndon, an MD Anderson wellness dietician said in a statement.  Healthy snacking is encouraged if the next meal is more than six hours away.

Most of us already know this but frequently ignore the advice. It’s easy to tune out nutritional recommendations and reach for high carb, high sugar, empty-nutrient foods – soda, candy, chips – for a quick boost. Some of us (including me) may skip a meal because we’re either “too busy” to stop or think it will help take off some pounds.

“Skipping meals might seem like a quick and easy way to lose weight,” Herndon said. “But starving your body of essential calories can actually lead to weight gain over time.”

The Center’s infographic [below] is an “in your face” reminder.

Do infographics get your attention or if they just more visual clutter to ignore? Let me know.

The Perfect Snack Combo

Calcium Supplements May be Bad for Your Heart. Or not.

500 mg calcium supplement tablets, with vitami...

I feel caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. A new study just released in the journal Heart shows that calcium supplements — the type that many women take for to improve bone health — may be linked to higher incidence of heart attacks. Researchers also found that increasing calcium in the diet had no significant advantage in terms of preventing heart disease and stroke.

This was a fairly large scale, long-term European study of 24,000 people, who were tracked for 11 years — so the results are hard to brush off. It’s true that those with moderate dietary calcium intake had lower risk of heart attack by almost a third compared with those in the bottom 25 percent of intake levels; however people whose diet included above-average calcium levels did not have significantly lower risk.

Those who took both vitamin supplements and calcium supplements regularly were 86% more likely to have a heart attack than those who didn’t use any supplements. And this risk increased further among those who used only calcium supplements. They were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who didn’t take any supplements.

The authors conclude: “This study suggests that increasing calcium intake from diet might not confer significant cardiovascular benefits, while calcium supplements, which might raise [heart attack] risk, should be taken with caution.”

So what do you do? Calcium supplements have been pretty much de rigueur to combat osteoporosis, especially in menopausal age women.

Now researchers tell me it can possibly lead to a heart attack? Apparently supplements have also been linked to kidney stones, and don’t have that much of an effect on bone health – yielding only about a 10% reduction in fractures. These investigators are pushing for a return to a more balanced diet that includes plenty of calcium naturally found in products like milk, cheese, broccoli and almonds.

Ok, but let’s get real. The diets of most Americans are anything but balanced.

The study also has its critics. In a report by HealthDay News. Robert Recker, M.D., president of the National Osteoporosis Foundation said he believed the study’s findings were flawed, or at the very least, biased. It’s not surprising that NOF takes this position, since their overall goal is bone health. That, of course, requires a certain level of calcium intake. As a lay person, I can’t begin to guess whether or not there were problems with the study. However, I can express concern and frustration.

It’s another example of “now what?” Calcium is good for you. No, it’s bad. Red wine is good for your heart. No, it’s not. Chocolate has protective ingredients – but don’t eat too much. Here’s the latest wonder drug. Wait, the FDA is pulling it off the market.

Is it any surprise that people are confused?

What are the trade offs? All most of us want to know is whether or not we need to boost something in our diets for better health – or cut something out because it will cause harm. We’re getting a lot of mixed messages depending on who is doing the research — and where the funding is coming from. Maybe we need a study about studies.

In the meantime, it seems as if the best thing to do is to check with your doctor and see whether osteoporosis or heart attacks are more of a risk if you take calcium supplements. Researchers have no definitive answer. At least this week.